"Yes, of course, if it’s fine tomorrow." It was Mrs Dalloway, no Mrs. Ramsey's promise to her son about going to the lighthouse. I am sitting in a trailer in a campground in Truro, MA, not far from a lighthouse, as my wife fulfills a promise to Fiona; taking her shopping in Provincetown. I'm glad my wife has agreed to this, since I really don't like shopping. Also, it gives me a little time to decompress and reflect.
I've been thinking a lot about promises recently and the words from Guys and Dolls comes to mind,
You promise me this, you promise me that
You promise me anything under the sun...
My time on the Cape is an effort to balance two promises. Every year we go to the Cape, and I had promised to spend ten days on the Cape this year. Yet that was before I accepted the nomination as the Democratic Candidate for State Representative in the 114th Assembly District in Connecticut. That acceptance had an implied promise to the people who nominated me, to the people who contributed to my campaign and to everyone who has worked hard in my effort to get elected. I will work hard to get elected and if elected, I will work hard to represent the people of my district.
So, amidst my trips to the beach, I'm spending time contacting people, trying to move my campaign forward. I've worked on fundraising, on setting up my advertising campaign, and refining my positions on various issues. I'll go into more details about some of this later, but today, I want to think more about the promises I've encountered during my campaign.
A lot of people have been telling me, 'if I can do anything to help, let me know." I'm finding that this is too often a brush-off, an unkept promise in the making. It really came home to me when one person said this, and I pointed him to a pile of contribution forms and asked him to contribute to the campaign, even a small contribution. He quickly said, "Yeah, Yeah, I'll contribute" and walked away. I still haven't seen his contribution.
You see, to qualify for the state Citizens Election Program, I need to show that 150 people in the towns in my district are willing to go beyond simply saying they support me, that they are willing to contribute between $5 and $100 dollars. If everyone who had promised me they would contribute had kept their promise, I'd be done with my fundraising now and could spend my time talking with voters about the issues.
But promises are easy to make and easier to break, so I'm still trying to get people to contribute. Yeah, everyone chastises politicians for not keeping promises, and then they go on to break a million promises of their own. Don't believe me? Let's do lunch sometime. How many times have you heard or said that unkept promise?
"But, it won't be fine," Mr. Ramsey said. He was honest, brutally honest, so much so that his son could have killed him if there had been an axe handy. How do we balance honesty and compassion and keep as many of our promises as we can? Like others, I'm still trying to work that out, but perhaps struggling with these little issues, each and every day, instead of just shrugging them off is an important part of what makes life full and meaningful.
Recently, a friend shared an Op-Ed on Mashable entitled, Why Social Media Can’t Win Swing Votes. The title caught my attention, so I clicked on the link to see what the author had to say. Unfortunately, the title seems misleading and a better title might be, "Why Facebook Ads won't are unlikely to swing enough votes in the Presidential Election to make a difference".
It seems as if the Op-Ed makes a few significant mistakes. First, it seems to confuse social media with Facebook advertising. Social media is really about engaging people in conversations. An ad on Facebook might draw someone into the conversation, but most likely it won't. Some of the people who are starting to turn away from Facebook ads are probably people who haven't grasped the importance of engagement yet and are disappointed that their ads have been ineffective.
This continues on with the Op-Ed's discussion about numbers of followers. This isn't an especially compelling metric either. The bigger question is, how much are links to articles, videos or other content being retweeted.
The other big failure of the article is that it focuses on the Presidential race. Just about everyone knows who Obama and Romney are. There are a lot of people in my district that don't know who i am, or who my incumbent opponent is.
The article also seems to focus on elections as an either-or type decision. Either a person votes for one candidate or another. That is perhaps the biggest problem with electoral politics today, and a place where social media has the biggest potential to make a difference. As a nation, we need to move away from either-or thinking. We need to move away from thinking that electoral politics is just about which candidate you select in the voting booth.
Social Media is about conversations, and politics should be as well. How do you get people to think a little more deeply about the issues we as a people face? It is about moving people along a spectrum of involvement; getting the unregistered registered, getting the registered to vote, getting voters to become more involved in campaigns as volunteers or donors, and getting people who have been active in others campaigns to consider running for office themselves.
Social media, meeting people where they are, has a great ability to help with that. Or, it can simply be another advertising platform in a beauty contest of brands. In that role, the author of the Op-Ed is right. Let's not get stuck with that sort of social media.
On Tuesday, 380 Republicans and 491 Democrats voted in Woodbridge. On the Republican side, Linda McMahon beat Chris Shays 231 to 149 votes. On the Democratic side, Chris Murphy defeated Susan Bysiewicz with 395 votes to her 96 votes. If the story ended there, it would be a very short blog post. However, there are little tidbits here and there that make the story more interesting.
I put up signs for Chris Murphy and spoke with voters early in the morning before work, and in the evening after work. I also had a good discussion with Republicans that were supporting Chris Shays. We shared a common concern about the low turnout, but had different views about how best to address it. One Republican even suggested that perhaps too many people had the right to vote, noting that the founding fathers limited voting to male land owners. He noted that black men received the right to vote before women did.
We can increase the percentage of voters turning out to vote different ways. One is to increase the numerator, another is to decrease the denominator. I would rather see more people vote.
One item of interest to me was the details on the wall about voting turnout. Every hour, the poll workers in Woodbridge would update sheets on the wall about how many people voted. From this, you could find out interesting information, like that 37% of the voters came in the last three hours.
Since I am running for State Representative in the 114th Assembly District which includes all of Woodbridge, as well as parts of Derby and Orange, I headed over to the other polling places in the district to see what was going on as I think about poll standing in November. I looked for a similar list of how many voters had shown up by hour in these other locations. No such list was available.
In Derby, people asked why I would want such information and only reluctantly gave me details. In Orange, one of the poll workers casually provided me an approximate number. It was disappointing and perhaps contributed to the poor showings in Orange and Derby.
More municipalities should follow the example of Woodbridge and make voter turnout information throughout the day much more available.
Recently, I watched the YouTube video, We are all cyborgs now
It is a thought provoking video which I highly recommend. On Facebook, I asked what this means for the political process. Perhaps I'll write a blog post exploring this a bit later. Today, I want to explore the idea of digital identity. All of our actions online live a digital footprint, they paint a digital picture of who we are. This picture may, or may not, correspond nicely with our analog identity. We may be less inhibited online and post things that we wouldn't normally say or do in our analog lives. We may re-post things for different reasons, which at times may be hard to fathom.
A couple sites that encourage this sort of behavior are Triberr and Empire Avenue. With Triberr, you join tribes of like minded people, promoting their blog posts with the expectation that they will promote your blog posts. If you look throughout my twitter stream, you'll see links to various blog posts that I've shared. They are fairly easy to identify, the title of the blog post, a link, and then a reference to the twitter handle of the person I got the post from on Triberr. Many of the triberr posts are about social media, although some are health care related. It is a reflection of the tribes I'm part of. It is also a reflection of which posts I find most interesting or think my followers on Twitter will find most interesting.
Empire Avenue is a bit different. This is a game, where you essentially score points for social media activity. You can get extra points for doing specific social media actions, called missions. These missions may be to share someone's blog post, retweet something, like a lot of posts on someone's Facebook, recommend them on Klout, or similar tasks. I do a handful of these tasks, but I've not done a lot of them because the value of the points usually isn't worth the impact on my digital identity and I'm not sure how interested my friends, fans, followers, or other social media connections would be in the results of these various tasks.
There is a lot more to think about from the video about the impact of being cyborgs now. Hopefully, I'll find moments away from campaigning to explore more of these, especially as they relate to the intersection of being a cyborg and a candidate.
This morning, as I did my weekly dump run, I listened to the car radio to hear Congressman Paul Ryan accept Mitt Romney's invitation to be his running mate. In his acceptance speech, Congressman Ryan asked, what sort of country do we want to be? I think that is the core question, and one that I've been thinking a lot about recently.
A couple weeks ago, I spent a weekend camping out at a folk music festival. I spent several days focusing on beauty and compassion for those around me. I listened to people sing about the struggles of living a meaningful life.
The following week back in Connecticut, after the festival, I learned that two friends had lost their parents. One friend's father died, another friend's mother died. I spent time reflecting on life, death, and listening to music of remembrance. This was music streaming over the computer, a bit different from the Falcon Ridge experience, but with some commonality.
I've written blog posts in the past remembering friends and family that have died, and I thought, "how do I want to be remembered?" I thought about eulogies I've listened to. The eulogies have not been about how much money a person made, how successful they were, or how many businesses they created. They have been about how much compassion the person showed; how much kindness.
At work, in the community garden next to my office, a young mother put up a memorial for her two year old son who recently died of cancer. Her grief is heart wrenching and I wove some of my experiences into a work blog post. Those who can afford to spend $50 million dollars running for U.S. Senate, can also afford the best health care in the world, but for too many of us, quality health care in an inaccessible luxury. Did the young boy that just died get the best health care in the world? Does his mother have access to the best health care as she deals with her grief? Our country, and all of us, have a responsibility to those less fortunate than ourselves. That is the kind of country we should be wanting to be.
At the end of that week, I went to BlogHer in New York City. The Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Nwando Olayiwola, at the health center where I work is a spokesperson for Text4Baby, a wonderful program helping expectant mothers through their pregnancies. It is a simple and inexpensive program bringing better health outcomes. Joining Dr. Nwando was the head of Save the Children and a few other notable speakers. The panel, "The state of the world’s mothers: working together to save & improve lives", was sponsored by Johnson & Johnson. Just as we as a nation have social responsibilities, so do corporations, and it was good to see Johnson & Johnson taking up some of their social responsibility.
This week has been National Health Center Week, and Wednesday was National Healthcare for the Homeless day. Our health center sponsored a screening of "Give Me a Shot of Anything". It is a powerful film about an organization in Boston that provides medical care for the homeless. The movie painted a picture of the homeless; veterans, college graduates struck down by bad luck, people really not that different than you or I. As the old saying goes, there but for the grace of God go I.
At one point in the movie, a homeless man looks at the camera and points at the doctor who has been out on the streets with the homeless. He says, "He cares." Simple. Heartfelt. As I watched this I thought, how many politicians would people say that about with the same sort of conviction. Few, if any, I imagine.
I can understand some of that. I've been busy trying to raise money for my campaign and get signatures to appear on a second line on the ballot. I've been busy filling out questionnaires in an effort to get endorsements. I haven't gotten as much time as I'd like to just be with people, finding out what they need, and if there are ways I can help them.
Now some of my conservative friends may find this objectionable. They may say, we shouldn't be teaching people to rely on others. That, I believe is the fundamental issue. Are we all in this together? Should we be helping one another out, or do we want a dog eat dog world where people are more interested in the size of a person's bank account when they die, than in the good that they have done?
What Kind of Country Do We Want to Be?